Costs rise on judge’s tribunal

| 20/01/2009

(CNS): Although Governor Stuart Jack made a commitment last year to keep the public informed regarding the progress of Justice Priya Levers’ tribunal, CNS has learned that the hearing has been postponed once again though no official announcement has been made. Cost are also now said to be increasing on earlier estimates following the decision by the tribunal chairman, Sir Andrew Leggatt, to award Justice Levers all of her legal funds to defend the misbehaviour accusations.

The last official statement made regarding the tribunal was on 16 October when the Governor’s Office stated that the hearing dates had been changed and would begin on Monday 23 February 2009. The hearing is now, however, scheduled for May. The tribunal was announced by the governor on 16 September, when he stated the process was expected to take around three months. Estimated costs at the time, as reported to Cabinet, were said to be around $1 million. However, sources close to the situation have suggested that it will now be far more.

With costs resulting from the unlawful arrest of Justice Alex Henderson already estimated to be more than $3 million, depending on the outcome of Justice Levers’ tribunal, the Caymanian public could be looking at another hefty bill as a result of decisions made by the governor.

At the moment Justice Levers is suspended from the bench but is receiving full pay and 75% of her legal costs, which includes a UK based senior QC as well as a local team, which will now be paid on a monthly basis in accordance with the tribunal ruling. The other 25% is held until the case is over, at which point, should Justice Levers successfully demonstrate her innocence, she will receive those funds. CNS has learned that the justice will at that point also be seeking compensation for the damage to her reputation.

The tribunal was convened to hear reported allegations against Justice Levers that her conduct, manner and behaviour towards witnesses, attorneys, court staff and judges officiating in the Cayman Islands was such that, when taken together, amount to misbehaviour, as set out in section 49J (2) of the Cayman Islands (Constitution) Amendment Order 1993, according to the tribunal terms of reference.

Although the details of those accusations have yet to be made public, sources close to event suggest much of the evidence is based on rumour and hearsay and that Justice Levers enjoys wide support from the legal community she has allegedly misbehaved towards.

Justice Levers has vigorously denied the allegations from the beginning and stated through her local legal representative, Anthony Akiwumi, Head of Litigation at Stuarts Walker Hersant, in the wake of the announcement that she welcomed the inquiry and denied any of the misbehavior alleged. She said that, with the assistance of her experienced legal team, she would defend all the allegations made against her to the fullest extent permissible by the law.

Since then, it has also been revealed that very personal and private documentation belonging to Justice Levers regarding her last requests in the event of her death had turned up in the evidence against her, which sources said was deeply disturbing to her.

According to the terms of reference of the tribunal, it will carry out a “factual investigation and report to the Governor whetherthe conduct of Madam Justice Levers taken as a whole has fallen below the standard reasonably to be expected of a holder of the office of Judge of the Grand Court so as to warrant proceedings for her removal.” The other two judges sitting on the tribunal with Sir Andrew Leggatt include Sir Philip Otton and Sir David Simmons.

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